Drip Watering System For Vegetable Garden – One of our top priorities when building our new garden was to get all of our garden beds drip irrigated. Deep, even, and regular watering is just as important as high-quality soil, fertilizer, and sunlight to keep your plants healthy and happy! However, good irrigation practices are often overlooked. Manual watering is time-consuming and difficult to maintain. Also, setting up an automatic drip irrigation system is often intimidating…
Follow along and learn how to set up drip irrigation for multiple garden beds. Our new raised bed drip irrigation system uses drip tape, but the skills you learn today can easily be applied to other types of drip emitters. This article and accompanying video will give you everything you need, from supplies to a step-by-step process, to make sure you build a similar drip system.
Drip Watering System For Vegetable Garden
Did you know that an automatic drip irrigation system not only saves you time and energy, it also saves water? Studies have shown that drip irrigation is 70% more economical than sprinkler systems. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the bottom of the plant and soil instead of randomly spraying everything. This reduces waste, runoff and evaporation.
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Drip irrigation is more effective and efficient in watering plants deeply than wetting the top of the soil. Deeper water means plants with deeper roots, more flexible, drought tolerant and hardier. All in all, drip irrigation is good for you, your wallet, your plants, and the planet.
Drip tape is basically a flat version of a drip tube. It lies flat on the surface of the soil, but inflates when pressurized and filled with water. Drip tape comes with pre-installed drip emitters spaced every 6, 9, 12, 18, or 24 inches. Each individual emitter will release a set amount of water from 0.25 gallons per hour (GPH) to 1 GPH depending on the type of drip tape you choose. Drip tape works with lower water pressure (8-15 psi) than conventional drip irrigation (20-40 psi).
It’s important to note that not all drip tape is created equal. In fact, drip tape gets a bad rap as short-term or even “one-off” because it’s often used for big moments. However, the lifespan of drip tape depends on the quality and thickness of the tape used. We’ve chosen the thickest commercial grade drip tape (15 mil) that can last up to 10 years of maintenance!
We chose to use drip tape in our raised bed drip irrigation system for several reasons.
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Yes! Drip strips can be installed on the soil surface, buried up to a foot below the soil, or covered with mulch without clogging. Even better, drip tape (or other drip irrigation components) can protect against sun damage and extreme temperatures, thereby extending life.
To keep the topsoil well-watered, we plan to place the drip strips fairly close to the soil surface, but cover them with a little soil and mulch. Regardless of how you install the drip tape line, make sure the emitter is facing up.
Drip irrigation for raised garden beds is recommended so that the entire bed is evenly filled and the row spacing is no more than 12 inches. After all, one of the many advantages of growing in raised beds is that, unlike traditional field row crops, there is no need to plant hard rows. Plus, the more moist soil around, the more worms, nematodes, and beneficial microorganisms will grow! Finally, extensive watering around the plant (not just directly at the base) encourages root exploration, larger, and wider growth. This leads to bigger, healthier plants!
We installed the drip lines evenly spaced 9 inches apart on our 4×8′ garden beds, or a total of four lines per bed. Each row of drip tape has a .25 gph emitter every 6 inches. This spacing allows for a nice even distribution of water across the entire bed, allowing you to plant along or between drip lines. It is especially suitable for close plantings such as vegetables.
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It is best to place the head at one short end of your garden bed. Next, attach drip tape (or other drip hose and emitters) down the length of the garden bed.
Drip tape spaced every 9 inches on our 4×8′ raised bed. With 15 emitters per 8-foot row of drip tape, each at 0.25 gallons per hour, for a total of four rows of tape, this bed will receive 15 gallons of water per hour. We certainly could have gone with the .5 gph drip tape – then run the bed for less time if needed!
It depends! Each garden will have different water needs based on its unique climate, season, temperature and rainfall patterns. It depends on your breeding habits and how thirsty the plant is. Large, mature plants “drink” more water than smaller plants. Soil protected by a nice layer of 2 to 4″ thick will stay moist much longer than bare soil, which greatly reduces water needs.
In general, it is better to water less frequently, deep and long, instead of short shallow waterings every day. This will promote deeper healthy roots and stronger, more resilient plants. Try to water enough to keep the soil evenly moist at all times, but let it dry out a little between waterings. Of course, you never want the soil to be completely dry! But remember that plants breathe through their roots, so the soil should not be constantly wet.
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In our climate, we usually run the raised bed drip irrigation system twice a week for about an hour. The operating time of your system will vary depending on the type of emitter used. For example, if we were using a drip tape with a .5 Gph emitter (instead of .25 Gph), we could run the system half the time.
When planting direct seed, plan on additional expenses or hand watering for the first few weeks. This will help keep the topsoil nice and moist during germination and root formation.
When these baby radishes get a little bigger, a drip irrigation system will give them plenty of water. However, after planting the seeds, I also watered them by hand to keep the top soil nice and moist (especially between the drip tape rows, in the dry areas).
As with all types of irrigation, it is best to winterize your drip irrigation system before freezing conditions occur. At a minimum, drain the system thoroughly and protect it with a good deep layer. Leaving standing water on pipes and valves can cause cracks when the water freezes and expands.
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Alternatively, to reduce the risk of damage, those living in extremely cold climates may wish to remove drip irrigation components altogether and store them in a sheltered location for the winter. But there is no need to disassemble the entire system! Use a threaded adapter at the connection point of each raised bed. Then you can just take it off, remove the head and the attached drip line entirely, and hang it in the garage (or something similar).
Average household water pressure, also known as PSI, is 40 to 60 pounds per square inch. This is the ideal pressure for sinks, showers and outdoor hose clamps. However, drip irrigation systems cannot withstand high water pressure. Excessive pressure may “explode” or cause injury. Therefore, you will need to add a pressure reducer to your raised bed drip irrigation system.
The best operating pressure for standard drip irrigation hoses and emitters is 20-40 psi. In most cases, one pressure reducer at the beginning of the system is sufficient (for example, where it is connected to a faucet or control valve). Our main irrigation valves already had a 40 psi pressure reducer installed in the head assembly. Note that a 100-foot length of standard ½” irrigation hose begins to lose pressure at the far end.
However, drip tape requires a lower pressure of 8-15 psi depending on the thickness and specifications of the drip tape chosen. *** To maintain good water pressure in our large garden area, we kept our main PVC lines at 40 psi, then added a 15 psi pressure regulator inside each raised bed before attaching the drip tape.***
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The first pressure regulator in our system reduces the water pressure to 40 PSI in the main water supply line that feeds each garden bed.
Then in each bed we added an additional pressure regulator to reduce it to 15 psi, which is perfect for drip tape.
Below is a list of supplies needed to create
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